op-ed

Reconciliation is the wrong prescription

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Last Wednesday, President Obama made one last-ditch effort to push his version of a health care reform plan through Congress, urging Congress to “finish its work” on health care. During a speech he indicated support for a strategy that includes a controversial maneuver known as “reconciliation.”

As many of you know, “reconciliation” is a complex procedure used in Congress to address budgetary and financial discrepancies. A reconciliation bill can be passed on a simple-majority vote (known as 50 plus 1), meaning that it is exempt from Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome.

Some may ask, what’s the problem with this procedure? The bottom line is that the complex budgetary procedure of reconciliation was never meant to pass crucial bills like health care reform.

The president’s reform proposal is very powerful and will make dramatic changes to our nation’s health care policy. This proposal is a bill that will take away choices, threaten the existence of private health insurance and create new federal bureaucracies, boards, and commissions in an industry that is responsible for one-sixth of our economy.

In addition, this plan will likely cause millions of employers to cancel the health insurance they currently offer employees and force tens of millions of Americans into a government-run Exchange program.

It will also create a health care czar to impose price controls on private health insurance that will lead to shortages and force even more people into government-run care.

It is because of these problems that many Americans want Washington to start over with a clean slate.

In a CNBC interview last week, President Obama supporter and campaign economic adviser Warren Buffett echoed Republicans when he said he would favor scrapping the Democrats’ bill and starting over, saying Congress should first and foremost focus on reducing health care costs.

The American people agree. In a recent CNN poll, 73 percent of Americans said that they wanted Washington to start from scratch (48 percent) or stop work completely (25 percent). The American people simply don’t want this health care proposal and the Democrat leadership seems to not care.

Not only is this reform plan unpopular, but this sweeping legislation is extremely powerful and very broad in scope. This plan would significantly change our nation’s health care policy. Reconciliation has never been used to force huge increases in entitlement spending like this and it would be an historic first.

Currently, it looks like Democrats in the House of Representatives don’t have the votes to get this through Congress. Last week, Democrat Rep. Bart Stupak said he and 11 other Democrats will vote against the health care reform plan unless a provision for taxpayer funded abortion is removed. Rep. Stupak argued that the provision in the Senate-passed version has language that would permit the federal government to “directly subsidize abortions.”

As Democrats appear to be losing more and more votes with each passing day, just remember that the first health care bill that passed the House in November only passed by the slim margin of only five votes, 220 to 215.

The bottom line is that Congress should not be considering this very powerful piece of legislation through a controversial “reconciliation” procedural measure. It’s not the way that Congress was designed to pass crucial bills like health care reform, and I hope the American people get their wish by seeing this measure defeated.

Rep. Robert Aderholt is serving his seventh term as the U.S. Representative of the Fourth Congressional District of Alabama. Rep. Aderholt serves on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, as the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Legislative Branch, and a member of the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee. Rep. Aderholt also serves on the House Budget Committee and the Helsinki Commission.